Graciela Iturbide is one of the most important photographers working in Mexico today and this wonderful display at the Tate Modern showcases some of her most extraordinary work over the past four decades.
Since the 1970s, Graciela has focused on the everyday life in Mexico, whether that be in rural or urban areas. Her distinctive black and white photography has captured beautifully the changes to Mexico in this time including the (slowly) changing attitudes to women, and how increasing modernity has become entwined with indigenous rituals.
A wonderful example of how contemporary fashion trends are being reflected by an urban society with limited finances is in the “seams” on Genoveva’s bare legs, a shot Graciela captured in Oaxaca in 2005.
Unusual amongst photographers, Graciela builds long-standing relationships with her subjects and the local people she photographs rather than keeping them at a distance. This and her strong interest in ritual and everyday life has resulted in a real reflection of life and personality in her work. It feels as if we are really under the skin of Mexican culture.
This talent was evident even in her earlier work, such as 1969’s Mexico City shot of a fashionable woman drinking shots in front of a mural of a large skull. It is a witty irreverent depiction of the merging of Mexico’s fascination with death with the increasing emergence of western trends.
This is Mexico so death is ever-present in Graciela’s photography, whether it’s in the ritual slaughter of goats and chickens for food and religious sacrifice, or in the incorporation of skulls in such happy occasions as weddings, as seen in her 1990 Novia Muerte (Death Bride).
Often, photography exhibitions can be dry and hard to emotionally connect with but Graciela Iturbide’s work is an undeniable exception to this. Her work is wonderful – a genuine exploration of us and our relationship to culture and tradition, even in our psychology.
This exhibition is on for a short time only but it is most definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re in the building anyway to see Matisse.
Tate Modern, London to May 11, 2014
- Graciela Iturbide, Etla, Oaxaca, 2005
- Graciela Iturbide, Mexico City, Ciudad de Mexico, 1969
- Graciela Iturbide, Novia Muerte (Death Bride) 1990